Libertarian ticket hopes to steal voters away from Trump

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U.S. Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson answers questions after making a foreign policy speech at the University of Chicago in Chicago, Illinois, U.S., October 7, 2016.    REUTERS/Jim Young  - RTSR9VQ

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JUDY WOODRUFF: And two — we know two former governors make up another ticket, the Libertarian ticket, in this year’s election, Gary Johnson of New Mexico, and his running mate, Bill Weld of Massachusetts.

I spoke with Governor Weld a short time ago, and began by asking if he sees a realistic path to the presidency for their ticket.

BILL WELD, Libertarian Vice Presidential Candidate: Well, the only way we could run the table is if we somehow become catnip for the national news media in the everyday saga of reporting on the presidential election and our role in that.

And we’re doing everything we can to get our name recognition up from 35 percent to 60 percent. We think, if that happens, our ballot position might go up to 20, 25 percent. And, at that point, we would be very dangerous, because we would be the ticket with the momentum.

That’s a long putt, but we are honor-bound to undertake that. It’s a fascinating election all around.

JUDY WOODRUFF: That, it is.

But you’re acknowledging it’s a long shot.

BILL WELD: Sure. Sure.

JUDY WOODRUFF: And you said, Governor Weld, last week to The Boston Globe that you are going to be focusing exclusively for the rest of this campaign on criticizing Donald Trump, making sure voters know what Donald Trump stands for.

That sounds like you’re campaigning to make sure he doesn’t get elected more than you are to make sure Gary Johnson gets…

BILL WELD: I’m not sure I used the word exclusively, but I said that he would have my full attention. And he does.

And now, after the events of the last few days with the tape involving women coming out, that kind of focuses a lot of people’s attention on that aspect of Mr. Trump’s character, if you will. And it suggests to us that, if we want to go hunting where the ducks are, the softer votes may be the Republican votes that, to this point, have been adhering to Mr. Trump.

But the fact of the matter is, Mr. Trump has set his sights absolutely against everything the Republican Party historically has stood for.

JUDY WOODRUFF: But it sounds like, in reading what you have been saying last week and before that, that, push comes to shove, Hillary Clinton is much more acceptable to you, if there can’t be a Libertarian in the White House, than Donald Trump.

BILL WELD: Yes, I have been trying not to answer that question, because you don’t want to be seem to be folding your tent. And Gary and I are in this to do everything we can, including win it if fortune could — should favor us.

But, no, I have made no bones about the fact from the get-go that I think there is a big difference between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. Never said otherwise.

JUDY WOODRUFF: And you have said that she’s the most experienced person maybe to ever seek the presidency.

BILL WELD: Well, I said that I’m not sure there’s anybody more qualified — and I should have said on paper — than Mrs. Clinton.

I think I went on to say I would still vote for Gary Johnson because of the decisions he would make in areas like the budget, fiscal policy and military policy. But, yes, she’s certainly qualified, after eight years of Senate and four years as secretary of state. To suggest that she’s not well-qualified by position and background to be president of the United States is to misstate.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, speaking of qualification, your running mate has gotten a lot of attention over the last few weeks with some statements, misstatements about foreign policy, leading the experts to observe that either he wasn’t prepared or just not knowledgeable about foreign policy.

Did you talk to him after these incidents?

BILL WELD: Oh, sure.

I mean, Gary feels terrible about making the fluffs, because he feels he’s let people down. But I know for a fact that, when he didn’t copy on the word Aleppo, it’s because he wasn’t aware that it was even a place name. He thought Mike Barnicle was asking him about some acronym.

And, you know, at the end of the day, prior to that incident, he had been very knowledgeably conversing about Syria policy and pretty much nailed it, I thought, too many rebel groups. You know, watch out, or you are going to have unintended consequences. We have to do a cease-fire with the Russians. And then that’s exactly what happened. And, of course, it blew up because of the bombings.

JUDY WOODRUFF: The Boston Globe also reported last week, Governor Weld, that you talked about wanting to be in a position to rebuild your former home, the Republican Party, after this election.

BILL WELD: I think it would be very interesting to be a part of the dialogue, with my Libertarian hat on, as to what’s going to happen after the Republican Party splits in two.

I think there is going to be a schism there either in this cycle or before the next cycle, just as what happened to the Whig Party in the 19th century.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, what do you make of what’s going on? I mean, right now, the speaker of the House of Representatives, a Republican, Paul Ryan, is saying he won’t campaign for Donald Trump.

BILL WELD: Well, that shouldn’t be a surprise.

I mean, after the — after the last election of 2012, Reince Priebus and Paul Ryan and all the party elders got together and said, OK, next time, we have got to focus on the message of free trade, outreach to the Hispanic community, much more inclusion of women, much more attention to communities of color and communities of every other ethnicity.

How much of that has Donald Trump done? Nothing. He’s done 180 degrees the opposite.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, what do you think happens to the Republican Party if Donald Trump…

(CROSSTALK)

BILL WELD: I think the Trump wing goes the way of the Know-Nothing Party of the 1850s, which, like the Trump wing, was founded on anti-immigrant fervor or prejudice and conspiracy theories and violent rallies.

It looks like a carbon copy of the old Know-Nothing Party. And what happened — the interesting question is, what happens to the rest of the party? Can it kind of come to its senses and rally and elect Abraham Lincoln three years later, which is what happened when the Whigs split up?

JUDY WOODRUFF: Whatever happens on Election Day, do you see this country coming together after this election?

BILL WELD: It is going to be tough, particularly with Mr. Trump threatening to — threatening Mrs. Clinton with jail.

I mean, I think she’s enough of a big person so that she certainly would make an effort to have the country come together. I have no doubt of that. It might be a little bit harder to say you should go on bended knee to the Donald. I don’t see that happening.

JUDY WOODRUFF: But just last question, you’re all out for the Libertarian ticket until Election Day?

BILL WELD: Yes, I am.

I mean, I will have comments on this and that. We may even rent a hall. But it’s going to be a very interesting four weeks. And I think we will have an impact. And my hope is, we will have an impact on those Republican voters and be able to peel them away from Mr. Trump.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Former Governor Bill Weld of Massachusetts, the vice presidential nominee of the Libertarian Party, we thank you.

BILL WELD: Thanks, Judy.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Online, take a detailed look at the trend lines shaping up in the swing states. That’s at PBS.org/NewsHour.

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